It paid off in spades for any of my fellow protogeezers who made the journey to the Linda Auditorium at WMAC last evening. The Waterboys, in remarkably their Capital District debut, held the capacity crowd in thrall with their audacious recasting of the words of the Irish bard W. B. Yeats. The band, downsized to a trio, featured original members, Mike Scott and Steve Wickham, alongside keyboardist Daniel Mintseris
played numerous selections from the newly released in the U.S. album, “An Appointment with Mr. Yeats“.
If the task of setting such revered words to musical accompaniment was daunting, it never showed during this assured and joyous performance. Mike Scott obviously has an affinity for Yeats words and their possible interpretation and has chosen arrangements that serve to enhance the listening experience. Highlights included a richly romantic “White Birds”, the pointed polemic “September 1913”, and “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”, which they cross-pollinated with some Delta blues. Perhaps sensing the crowd was nearing the limits of their patience for unfamiliar material, the lads charged into the classic “Fisherman’s Blues”, which predictably brought numerous hoots and whistles, especially in appreciation of Steve’s fiddling. Then the shouted requests and banter came out and I was once again reminded that I was in an Albany crowd, that invariably feels the need to be part of the show. I was cheered by the band’s choosing to mostly ignore this annoying trait and finish the set on their terms. A churning take on “The Pan Within”, which included a guitar string mishap, prompting Steve to share an impromptu fiddle solo, climaxed in furious fashion, bringing the set to a close. A short encore concluded with a spirited take on the American folk classic “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, bringing the journey back home. And while there were surely some grumbles over the scarcity of songs long familiar , no one can challenge the spirit and reverie of this performance, which was grounded in Mike Scott’s desire to share his love of Yeats and his connection to the Irish traditions of words, song and storytelling. This was a show that will likely reside in some top ten lists at years end, and kudos to the promoters, the Linda and their partners WEXT 97.7, for coaxing a full house of music fans out on a Tuesday. We were richly rewarded for that effort.